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Town and Village

Town officials to sell tax sale property

PUTNEY—The town may soon unload a Taylor Road property it has owned since 2002, putting it back on the tax rolls.

At the April 12 regular Selectboard meeting, Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard told Board members she received an inquiry from an abutting neighbor interested in purchasing the 2.3-acre parcel.

Stoddard researched the proper way to transfer town-owned tax-sale property. From a local real estate agent, she learned $24,500 is a fair list price. Lawrence Slason, the town attorney, told her the town has a fiduciary responsibility to get the best market value for the land.

But, Stoddard learned, the town cannot profit from the sale beyond covering the costs of the transaction. All extra money must go back to the property owner who lost the parcel during the tax sale.

“What about lost taxes since 2002?” Board Vice-Chair Steve Hed asked.

“Interesting you should say that!” Stoddard replied, and explained that as per judicial precedent, the town is barred from recouping property taxes that could have been assessed against the property during the town’s period of ownership.

The reason: Town officials chose to retain ownership of the property.

“The reason behind the [court’s] ruling is, they didn’t want towns to get into the real-estate business” and buy up tax-sale properties to turn a profit, Stoddard said.

Selectboard Clerk Josh Laughlin asked about requirements for listing the property. Stoddard said the town isn’t required to advertise the property, but it “must make a good-faith effort to get a fair market price."

“Even though it’s not a legal [requirement], I think [listing it] would be the right thing to do,” said Stoddard, who said she would contact all abutters.

After some discussion between Selectboard members and Stoddard on what constitutes “a good-faith effort” to sell the property, she said she would get more information from Slason.

The Selectboard expressed unanimous support for selling the property.

“Let’s recoup our loss and put it back on the tax rolls,” said Board Chair Scott Henry.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #406 (Wednesday, May 3, 2017).

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